Jeremy Corbyn has said an “investment blitz” would create “immense” opportunities for businesses under a Labour government in a pitch to corporate Britain.
Speaking at the CBI’s annual conference in London, Corbyn sought to appeal to firms by saying Labour’s Brexit policy would provide “the certainty of a customs union and access to the single market”.
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Yet the response from business to Corbyn’s speech was decidedly frosty. CBI director general Dame Carolyn Fairbairn criticised his “false instincts for mass nationalisations and forcing inclusive ownership schemes onto thriving businesses”.
In his pitch to businesses, Corbyn also failed when asked to name a single FTSE 100 firm which he felt was doing “good for community and society”.
Labour has riled much of the private sector by promising large-scale nationalisations. Last week, the party sparked a backlash when it announced it would take internet provider BT Openreach into public ownership.
Corbyn defended the policy today, telling business leaders: “You’re going to get the world leading infrastructure, including full fibre broadband, you’ve long, long demanded.”
He said it was “nonsense” that he was anti-business. “It’s not anti-business to be against poverty pay, it’s not anti-business to say that the largest corporations should pay their taxes just as smaller companies do,” he said.
“You and your business have so much to gain from a Labour government,” he added.
Yet Corbyn could not name a big UK firm he thought was doing good for society. When asked about major oil and mining businesses, he said he was concerned that “there are problems or environmental damage done by multinational companies in other countries as well as here”.
CBI chief Fairbairn said: “It’s time to see Labour open the door to real and lasting partnership with business, not stick with outdated ideologies that would close it in their face.”
Corbyn’s speech followed an address by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who announced that the Conservatives would shelve plans to cut corporation tax from 19 per cent to 17 per cent.
Corbyn outlined a new climate apprenticeship scheme, which had been announced last night, which he said would deliver 320,000 apprenticeships in England during its first term in government.
A key part of his pitch to UK businesses was that a Labour government would offer a closer relationship to the European Union.
Labour’s policy is to negotiate a new Brexit deal within six months of taking office, and then put it to the country in a referendum, with an option to remain in the EU on the ballot paper.
Yet Stuart Carrington, partner at chartered accountants Thomas Westcott, who watched Corbyn’s speech, said he did not believe this would end the Brexit uncertainty hanging over businesses.
“But I don’t believe that Boris Johnson can deliver a sensible approach either,” Carrington added.
(Image credit: Getty)